Monday, June 23, 2014

Is Your High Performing Employee More Trouble Than He or She is Worth? 10 Questions To Help You Evaluate

Today we have a guest blog from Lauren Owen:

As leaders, we want and need employees who bring talent and drive to their jobs. Yet sometimes it is these very same traits that can lead to a lot of time and energy spent dealing with the conflict they create with other employees.  Worse yet, their behavior can damage your company's reputation, lose clients and drive away valuable employees.

The classic example is the super talented, uber-competitive sales person who has the "win at all cost" attitude and uses it to win, and win constantly. Your challenges as his leader range from on-going friction and resentment among colleagues because he doesn't "play nice" or blows off deadlines for projects he feels are not a part of his job, to him cutting corners around compliance or regulatory issues that can legally expose your entire company.

The star player gets results for sure, but at what cost?  Is the trouble she creates worth it to you and your company? There are no easy answers here, but I offer a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. If this person is in sales or account management, do you find yourself wondering who "owns" the relationship? In other words, if this person left would your clients go with her? 
  2. Do you have a non-compete in place that provides legal protection if he left? If he holds technical or propriety knowledge, do you have a non-disclosure in place? 
  3. If he's a sales person, how would you rate your relationship with his customers? Excellent? Good? Poor? Or non-existent? 
  4. Is the conflict with other employees due to the high performer's own high standards? Are these standards that should be emulated and upheld by others? Is it "truth-telling" for the good of the company? 
  5. Or, is the behavior really bullying? Is the conflict due to behaviors that ignore or flaunt company values and culture?
  6. Do you know or do you suspect that you have lost other good employees because of this high performer?
  7. Do you find yourself with a gut feeling that you are being "held hostage" by this person?
  8.  Do often wonder what would happen to the company if she left? Are you afraid that no one could do the high performer's job? 
  9. Are you not doing anything about the conflict and other incidences because you fear conflict and/or do not want to "rock the boat"? 
  10. If you had the choice whether or not to hire this person again, what would you do? 

A wise person once said, most people don't do anything about a situation until they are unhappy about it least half of the time. If you are you at that half-way point, or better yet, well before it, I invite you to ask yourself these tough questions, listen to your gut, and test your thoughts and feelings with your trusted advisors.


Lauren Owen, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Lauren works with businesses leaders who want to develop and execute succession plans, sharpen their business practices, strengthen their leadership, and create long-lasting value in their businesses. She is a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Leadership Coach. She is also a leader of the Excell Puget Sound Southend Group.

(206) 427-2856, (253) 245.3518

Monday, June 16, 2014

Failure to Launch: 5 Reasons Product Launches Fizzle

Today we have a guest blog from Elizabeth Andreini:

Are you one of the many companies that have recently released new or enhanced products or services or are preparing to launch new offerings later this year? Recently, I was talking to a company getting ready to release several new products this fall using a product launch plan (their first ever!), I thought it might be timely to highlight five common reasons product launches fail and how to avoid that fate. Hopefully you won’t fall prey to any of these!

5 Reasons Product Launches Fail and Products Don’t Sell

1.    It’s a Can’t Miss ‘Cutting Edge’ Product/Service!
Sometimes a great idea (based on anecdotes from a key sales person or executive) gets turned into a product offering before the company identifies a market that really needs or wants it – and finds out after the fact there is little interest and no real market. Another issue may be that the product offering is not a high need or want product. It could be a “nice to have” offering that there is no urgency to buy. Prospects can use substitutes or “do nothing” as an easy alternative. Make sure there is a clearly identified market and prospects have a reason to buy (and buy now). Define the “complete” product offering – including services needed – before you release to the marketplace.

2.    We Have to Release on Time!
We all work to deadlines. Sometimes as a deadline gets closer we realize that a product or service offering isn’t ready. At the last minute shortcuts get made and things get cut – or moved into “Phase 2.” Getting to market on time is only critical if key features or capabilities are ready, otherwise prospects won’t be interested. Alternatively a company may make the target launch date but the product offering is not completely ready (and is released anyway). The company likely knows the offering isn’t market ready and isn’t fully committed to its success. Quality issues slow purchase and will result in even more problems including longer term damage to the company’s reputation. Be precise in defining what has to be in a product or service and clarify what key benefits/capabilities have to be ready – and if it isn’t ready don’t launch it. Validate the final offering against the initial requirements, communicating early on if there are any discrepancies.

3.    Ta Da!
The product is done and “released.” Or at least it is available for sale, but no one is ready. The company works in silos and manufacturing, sales and customer service are not in sync. Employees within the company are not trained and ready to sell and support the product. The market, and competitors, figure that out fast. Put together a cross-disciplinary launch team and ensure that all parts of the company are “Go!” before launching. Every part of the company needs to be fully trained and ready to support the product when it launches.

4.    I Didn’t Know You Had…
Have you ever heard a customer say, “Oh, I didn’t know you had [blank].” If you don’t effectively and repeatedly communicate to the market and prospects - as well as current customers - they may not even realize you have a new product offering until after their budget is spent. They can’t buy what they don’t know about. Have a marketing plan in pace that covers communication to all key audiences internally and externally. Communicate to all audiences that a product is coming, again when it is released and finally again after the launch.

5.    It’s Complicated.
Got sales training? The company gives the sales team information on the new product it is launching, but the product doesn’t get sold. What happened? Maybe the sales team doesn’t have enough information or the product offering seems too complicated which could result in lots of questions that a sales person doesn’t have the answers to. Maybe the sales person doesn’t fully understand the information provided during training. A sales person might not admit that they wouldn’t sell a product because of all the questions prospects ask, which could slow down the sale of other products. Make sure the sales team is fully ready and practiced. Quota and track sales of the new product to catch sales problems early.

Consider these questions to help make sure your product launch is successful:
  1. When new products are being considered, are clearly defined market needs documented, target audiences defined and a competitive analysis conducted? Are feature and benefit priorities clearly understood so the company can make accurate decisions on when the product offering is really ready to launch?
  2.  Do you have the value proposition & market offering defined so that you know you are offering a “complete product” that resonates with prospects’ needs and wants?
  3. Does your company have a coordinated rollout process across departments so that when a product or service offering launches all groups are ready and fully trained to sell and support it?
  4. Has a communication plan been created that provides information on the new product, its benefits and pricing, to internal stakeholders as well as external audiences, including prospects in the target market as well as customers?


As the President of Accelerate Marketing, LLC, Elizabeth Andreini, is the "secret weapon" CEOs turn to at key growth points when they need to transform marketing and product management to grow their customer base, increase revenue & scale their business.  In addition to providing experienced executive insight and guidance, Elizabeth often works as an interim CMO or VP to provide the hands-on leadership needed tore architect marketing and product management and improve execution from the inside.  

Elizabeth Andreini, founder & president of Accelerate Marketing, LLC Accelerate Marketing, LLC
206-769-3420 or
Twitter: @acceler8mkting

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

WHEN IS IT IMPORTANT TO BE AWARE – Taking on a new role or growing your employees

Most of us live in a world where we go unconscious from time to time.  Usually this happens out of habit or in to fear when something is new.  When we go unconscious, I mean that we do something without being aware of what we are doing…. Breathing is usually an automatic act and that’s a good thing.  Sometimes we go unconscious from boredom… (driven that stretch hundreds of times) and that may not be a good thing.   

Today, let’s talk about when it is important to be aware. In my role with Excell Puget Sound, I work with a lot of business owners.  They have usually started their companies or grown up in them, as family owned businesses. 

There are some roles, skills and ways they do things that are second nature.  You have those too.... things you do that you just don’t have to think about.  If you play golf and you are thinking about everything you do, my crystal ball says, “You are having a lousy round of golf!”

So choosing when to be aware, conscious and think about something is ultimately important.  The golf course is a bad place to try and practice. However, time at the driving range, doing exercises, thinking about what needs to be changed, modified and corrected can be very profitable time spent.  You get the idea... pick and choose when you are on automatic. 

I just watched a CEO with one of her reports.  She is really knowledgeable and good at what she does.  In this case, she was in a hurry.  By the time the conversation was finished, I noticed that the employee looked frustrated and had lost eye contact.  As good as this CEO is at reading people, she was unaware that the interchange had ended negatively.  

Here was a prime teaching opportunity lost.  The employee (I ran in to her later) told me she felt more dependent because of the directions received (translate that in to less satisfied with her job and less engaged in taking initiative).  This was a time that the CEO should have made a decision to be present, ask lots of questions and challenge the employee to come up with several solutions and recommend a course of action from one of them. 

Can you always take time? No.  If you can’t tell your employee that you either want to address the issue later or that because of time constraints, you are making a decision. At ExcellPugetSound we urge business owners to be clear about when and where you are teaching, or not.  If you are constrained, then  communicate what the impact is of tight time and do it before you “fix” a problem. 

Do you have redo’s in your company?  Do they include teaching moments and professional development?  I later suggested to the CEO that she ask the employee to raise the issue again at their weekly staff meeting and allow everyone to weigh in.  What are your techniques for getting a redo?